Last December, a group of AVP fans, sponsors, athletes, and AVPFirst supporters gathered to celebrate one man’s legacy. Since 2017, the AVPFirst Wall of Champions has honored past beach volleyball greats Misty May, Dain Blanton, Sinjin Smith, Todd Rogers, and Jenny Johnson Jordan. The 2021 nominee was just as deserving, the clear choice to be inducted – Jake Gibb.
The Wall of Champions ceremony previously coincided with the Serving up Style event, a fashion show of AVP athletes that raised funds every year. “We wanted to create a lasting legacy,” AVPFirst Executive Director Tony Giarla says, “for athletes that were successful on the court but also made an impact off the court.”
Because of Covid, AVPFirst pivoted, transitioning into a reception model instead of a large-scale fashion show. The 2021 ceremony was a more intimate event, a 50-person gathering to honor the career and legacy of Jake Gibb.
“It was around the holidays,” Tony says, “a chance for people to get together and show gratitude for the things we have. It’s a chance to bring sponsors, fans, and supporters together and share what we were able to accomplish, even in this environment.”
Along with honoring Jake, the event brings awareness to AVPFirst and tells a bit of its story. Here’s a brief excerpt from the event:
“The AVPFirst Wall of Champions recognizes the significant professional and personal contributions of individuals that have paved the way for the advancement and growth of beach volleyball. Most importantly, the Wall of Champions induction ceremony enables AVPFirst to continue its successful history of positively impacting youth.”
“The mission of AVPFirst is simple; to improve the health and well-being of underserved youth through the sport of beach volleyball. Regardless of ethnicity, economics, or the neighborhood in which they reside, AVPFirst’s community programs ensure volleyball truly is for ALL. Fostering development for youth so that they too can achieve personal successes on par with this year’s honoree.”
The event celebrated the return to programming at AVPFirst and the life and career of Jake Gibb, a man who truly changed the game. The four-time Olympian and 35-time AVP Champion is opening his own club called Spiker Beach in Huntington. Jake will be working with AVPFirst, offering clinics and helping with programming in the coming years.
The venue and alcohol were donated by Neft Vodka; the event itself was held at their swanky headquarters in El Segundo. AVPFirst held a silent auction, sold tickets, and accepted donations throughout the night. Raising nearly $15,000, proceeds from the evening will be reinvested in underserved communities across the country through a series of free Community Corner Clinics and by establishing local training groups in targeted low-income neighborhoods.
Most of the evening was spent dancing to DJ Roueche’s set and enjoying the community. Dain and Sinjin were both in attendance and helped unveil Jake’s Wall of Champions plaque, a tradition Tony hopes will continue forever.